Q: What is this Leopard I keep hearing about and what is so great about it?

Tech Q & A
– Submitted by many

A: Leopard is the marketing name for the recently released Macintosh Operating System 10.5 (otherwise known as Mac OS 10.5 or Mac OS X 10.5). It replaces Mac OS X 10.4, commonly known as Tiger, which had been the current Mac OS for about two-and-a-half years. Apple claims that Leopard has over 300 new features. You can see the full list, which is well worth a read, by clicking here. While many of the features counted in this number are minor, there are a few major features that are important to note. But before we get started, you may be wondering why Apple names the Mac OS X versions after big cats?

To keep a long story short, almost all companies give code names to new products in development. Apple started giving big cat code names to each major revision of the Mac OS, starting with Mac OS X 10.0. Usually, these code names are only used internally within a company, as was the case with Mac OS X 10.0 (Cheetah) and Mac OS X 10.1 (Puma). However, with Mac OS X 10.2, Apple’s marketing team started publicly using the code name, Jaguar, and the name stuck. After that, Apple just kept using the cat names to promote each new version. Mac OS X 10.3 was Panther, 10.4 Tiger, and 10.5 Leopard. FYI, Apple has already registered Lynx and Cougar as trademarks.

So getting back on track, what features of Leopard set it apart from the previous Mac OS as well as Windows? One very nice feature is Quick Look. This allows a user to quickly view a document without needing to open the program first. Quick Look works even if a user does not have the software to open the file. Obviously, this can be very handy. While the user won’t be able to print the file, at least they will be able to view it. This can also be a time saving feature, especially for users with older Macs. Currently, Quick Look can allow users to look at the contents of these common file formats: PDF, Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OpenDocument (OpenOffice), most graphic formats, most video formats, as well as many other formats. Additionally, Quick Look can be expanded by 3rd party plug-ins so even more file formats will be Quick Look compatible.

The other noteworthy feature is what Apple calls Time Machine. Time Machine is easy-to-use automatic backup software that comes as part of Leopard (and hence part of all new Macs). Literally, all you need to do is connect an external hard drive to your Mac, answer yes when Time Machine asks if you want to use that drive as a backup, and Time Machine takes care of the rest. Backups are performed automatically in the background. You don’t need to set a schedule or tell Time Machine to manually start a backup. If the external hard drive is removed from the computer, Time Machine automatically resumes the backup when it is reconnected. This makes Time Machine work very well with laptops. Including such easy-to-use backup software with Leopard means that Mac users as a whole will have their data better protected.

To wrap up, while many of the 300 new features are minor, as a whole they really do improve the Mac OS, making it generally easier and more intuitive. Again, take a look at the new features, as some may be of interest to you.

For all things Apple, Marcel is your expert.